Labour Selection Saga continues
Monday, 18 May 2009
David Chaytor MP, who was suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party over the weekend, was Labour candidate for Calder Valley in the 1987 and 1992 elections. He was also a Calderdale councillor from 1982 until 1997. The Daily Telegraph has alleged that David Chaytor claimed money for a mortgage he had already paid off.
Labour's National Executive: Margaret Boyle, a correspondent to the Hebweb Forum has given details of a letter she has received following her complaint to Labour's National Executive Committee. "On 5th May the NEC Organisation Committee endorsed the candidacy of Stephanie Booth as unanimously recommended by the interviewing panel, stating: "Steph Booth has received the full endorsement of the Labour Party's National Executive Committee. Steph has given a full explanation of allegations made against her and the Party is clear they are without substance. Steph enjoys our full support as a candidate for the next general election and we are confident she will make a hard working and successful MP for the Calder Valley."
Legal Action against Yorkshire Post: The letter from Labour's NEC went on to say, "Stephanie Booth has informed the NEC that she has personally commenced legal action against Cool UK, and Yorkshire Post Newspapers Ltd who printed the allegations against her without taking any steps to verify the truth of the story they were given."
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
This morning's Yorkshire Post reveals allegations that prospective Yorkshire Labour MP Steph Booth "coerced" a member of her staff "to do her dirty work".
The paper reports, "Gareth Binding, chief executive of education company Cool UK said Steph Booth asked employee David Sutcliffe to register for the online site of a local newspaper and write anonymous comments on it about a rival candidate." Steph Booth was also working for Cool UK in a senior position to David Sutcliffe.
The rival candidate was Janet Oosthuysen. Allegations previously reported on the Hebden Bridge Web and elsewhere have suggested that Steph Booth was using a dirty tricks campaign to defeat her popular opponent. More recently, there have been questions about the postal voting which led to the recent selection of Steph Booth as candidate. See below and Hebweb Forum.
The Yorkshire Post article continues: "In one of the messages written by Mr Sutcliffe, a 39-year-old central support worker, under the pseudonym of Anjustarks, he said: "As a life-long Labour voter, I think it would have been much better to have seen Janet O. putting the voters first rather than this suicide by a thousand cuts. As far as I can see her reputation is trashed...''
Cllr Susan Press, who lost a second selection contest to Mrs Booth, said she was "absolutely appalled" by the allegations.
See Yorkshire Post article in full
Alice Mahon gives "despicable" treatment of Janet Oosthuysen as one of her reasons for leaving Labour
Saturday, 18 April 2009
Alice Mahon, who was Labour MP for Halifax for 18 years, has quit the Labour Party. She gives various reasons including privitisation of public services, Labour's cooperation with George Bush and the recent scandal over emails.
Her final reason is ". . . because it is no longer democratic. The personally vindictive, dishonest, campaign played out on the pages of the tabloids by certain Labour Party members to deselect Janet Oosthuysen was despicable...".
In July 2008, the local Calder Valley Labour Party chose Hebden Royd town councillor Janet Oosthuysen of Hebden Bridge to be their candidate for Calder Valley at the next general election - Chris McCafferty MP is standing down. Janet was the clear winner in the first round of voting.
A writer on the LabourHome blog wrote: "I have had the pleasure of meeting Janet at a Labour Party event in West Yorkshire. She is not just bright but articulate. I have no problem endorsing as a good trade union and labour party actvist. She is a member of Unite. Although a member of the left, she has shown she can work with a broad church of actvists."
There was a campaign by a group of people in the local and national media to undermine Janet Oosthuysen's selection, even though she was clearly a very popular choice among local electors. In October, 2008 this group made public a minor misdemeanor committed by Ms Oosthuysen a couple of years ago. The Daily Mail reported, "A year earlier she had been cautioned by West Yorkshire police for scratching the bodywork of her ex-partner’s car." Consequently, in January 2009, the Labour Party's National Executive voted to block her candidacy.
Strong support for Ms Oosthuysen's candidacy was expressed by correspondents to the Hebden Bridge Web Discussion Forum.
Alice Mahon said: "When I found out about Janet I just couldn't believe it. She would have been an excellent candidate and how they could do that to such a nice person I do not know."
The saga for selection of Labour candidate for the Calder Valley ward didn't end there. A week or so ago, Hebden Royd Mayor Susan Press has lost her bid to become the Calder Valley Labour candidate - defeated by postal votes.
The current Labour candidate for the next general election is now Stephenie Booth, Cherie Booth and Tony Blair's mother in law.
Today, BBC News has reported that the suspicion of postal ballot rigging has halted the selection process in another constituency. "The Labour Party has called off a hustings to choose a parliamentary candidate after discovering a ballot box had apparently been tampered with. The contest in the Erith and Thamesmead constituency in south east London had already provoked controversy when it was taken over by the central party."
Even before today's revelations about Erith and Thamesmead, the Calder Valley selection process was beginning to raise eyebrows in the blogosphere.
Liberal Democrat town councillor John Beacroft-Mitchell has written on his blog: "It is widely rumoured and believed in the Calder Valley that close supporters of Steph Booth briefed the press with these and other revelations in what was ultimately a successful attempt to unseat Janet and install Mrs. Booth. It looks like the Steph Booth faction got their way in the end . . ."
A poster on "Comment Central" has written: "There's trouble at mill in Calder Valley too where Steph Booth (you know who she is related to) has only recently returned from living in Ireland, has won the nomination.The locals are up in arms. It was the postal voting that did for her very popular rival".
The Daily Mail homed in on the latest controversy: "Cherie Blair's stepmother has been accused of voting irregularities in her bid to become an MP. Stephanie Booth, 53, was selected as Labour's parliamentary candidate for the Calder Valley seat in West Yorkshire. On the night of the count, Mrs Booth secured 22 votes, while rival Susan Press won 35. However, when postal votes were added, Mrs Booth won by 95 to 52. " (16th April)
Susan Press has written on her blog: "I lost the vote but two-thirds of the people who turned out voted for me. 35 votes to 22. A huge swathe of postal votes did not. I wish Stephenie Booth the best in her fight to retain Calder Valley.. But let's be clear. The current process in the Labour Party is wrong. I lost because I had very little time to defeat the machine. I won the populat vote with the people who were there to make a considered decision based on what I said and what I stood for."
Hebweb Forum: Labour to send Craig to Westminster (August-Sept 2009)
Hebweb Forum: Labour selection process (April 2009)
Hebweb Forum: Janet Oosthuysen (Jan 2009)
Daily Mail: Cherie Blair's stepmother at centre of 'vote rigging' row as she clears first hurdle to become an MP (16th April)
Grimmer up North - Susan Press's blog